The Los Angeles Lakers came home from their eight-game road trip on Saturday night, with only one win to add to their now 3-21 record. After a day off on Sunday to recuperate, the team took to the practice floor on Monday.
Jordan Clarkson was able to practice in full according to head coach Byron Scott, and barring any setbacks tomorrow, is expected to play against the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night, in which case D’Angelo Russell will be back with the second unit.
Scott says he plans to stick with the Clarkson, Lou Williams, Kobe Bryant, Larry Nance Jr., Roy Hibbert starting lineup for a minimum of 10 games. On the Lakers No. 2 draft pick, Scott says he was very pleased with the progress he made throughout the road trip.
“I thought he (D’Angelo Russell) played with a lot more confidence,” Scott said after Monday’s practice. “His command of the offense was much better. His turnovers were a little bit lower, it’s something he’s still got to continue to work on. But, I like what I saw on this road trip with him, so again, I think his development is coming slowly but surely, and that’s something that I thought was very positive.”
The Lakers have recently started to correct their problem of getting off to slow starts, but it’s also come at the expense of contributions from the reserves. Scott is still searching for that “happy medium” between both units.
“Crazy thing right now is our first unit is getting off to really good starts and our bench is playing terrible. Our bench is coming in right now not living up to what they have to do,” Scott surmised.
A part of that reserve unit the past few games has been second-year player, Julius Randle. Though Randle thrived alongside Russell in his first two games off the bench against the Toronto Raptors (15 points and 11 rebounds) and Minnesota Timberwolves (20 points and 12 rebounds), the former Kentucky standout has done little to stand out in his past two games. Against San Antonio, Randle had four points on a 2-of-9 clip, to go along with two turnovers, four personal fouls and seven boards. Against Houston, Randle had seven points (3-11), three turnovers, and five fouls, though he did still manage to bring down 10 rebounds.
Scott attributed Randle’s problems to the length of Houston and San Antonio, also observing that Randle tried to do “too much,” but there was another factor that might have contributed to Randle’s struggles.
Though Scott initially planned for Russell and Randle to be in the second unit together, Russell filled in for a need in the starting lineup the past two games, with Clarkson sidelined with an ankle sprain.
“Could probably have a little bit of a correlation,” Scott answered when asked about whether Russell’s absence could be a factor in Randle’s offensive struggles. “But again, that’s why we’re going back to the same starting lineup we started with, so they are back together on the second unit. Like I’ve told both of them, the thing about being a professional basketball player is consistency and being able to do that on a night in and night out basis.”
Randle is still leading the team in rebounding this season and first among sophomore players in rebounding. Even more impressive, among all players, the 21-year-old is ninth overall in total rebounds, and already has 13 10+ rebound games this season.
For the first time since this month, the Lakers are back at Staples Center, taking on the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night, 7:30 PM PST.